Candy House, the debut novel by Kate Jonez, sets magic and science against one another in one of the weirdest, wildest neighborhood disputes you'll ever read about.
Roland Childe is a 28-year-old professor with some… interesting theories he’s been working on. The theories have garnered him some attention in the scientific community, but not exactly the kind of attention he’s hoping for. His burgeoning reputation as a crackpot, combined with his explosive temper, has resulted in a broken career and a wrecked personal life. When we first meet the man, he’s moved back into his childhood home with his mother.
The Childes live next door to a family that’s anything but your ordinary suburban family. Instead it’s a wild clan of witches and demons, a colorful cast of characters with a mission – make sure science respects its boundaries and stays out of magic’s way. One of the ladies, an alluring woman named Hesperia, pegged young Roland years ago as someone who could make trouble for them in the future, and many of his current problems can be traced back to their time together when he was just a boy. Hesperia is bound to her house, and Roland’s ultimate destruction may be the only thing that can set her free. It’s a project she’s been patiently working on for years, but her feelings for him have slowed her progress over time.
It’s an interesting premise, and one that could have slid over into pure fantasy, but Jonez gives it a decidedly horrific slant. It’s also an ambitious piece of work, particularly for a first novel, and it sometimes reels out of the author’s control. There’s a pretty big cast to contend with, for one thing, and only so much time to flesh them all out into believable, impactful characters. Jonez also enjoys playing with time, pushing readers backwards and forwards in the story. That can be an effective storytelling tool when wielded with precision, but there are several instances where we’re lurching in and out of the present instead of flowing smoothly, a sure way to yank readers right out of the story.
On the plus side, Jonez has a vivid imagination and a total lack of fear when it comes to taking her narrative into uncharted territory. There are some truly original ideas and concepts in Candy House, and Jonez tackles them with obvious glee. That’s a rare and wonderful thing these days, and hopefully Jonez will continue to nurture her creativity while sharpening her ability.
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.